South Africa’s truth commission Tuesday said it will subpoena former president Pieter W. Botha if he does not voluntarily come forward to respond to allegations that he ordered the bombing of the South African Council of Churches during his government’s war to preserve white-minority rule.
The commission’s threat against Botha, 80, a hard-liner known here as “the great crocodile,” comes during a week of dramatic momentum for South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Former police officials have testified before the commission about their roles in scores of killings during the years of apartheid, or racial separation, and about the security and political apparatus that supported their actions.
The week began with the surprise revelation Monday by a former police general that the order to blow up the Johannesburg headquarters of the church council came from Botha himself, through his law and order minister.
Botha, who was president from 1984 until 1989 and whose government waged a total war against blacks agitating for democracy, did not respond publicly or to the commission about the subpoena threat.